DUI Manslaughter in St. Augustine, Florida
Driving under the influence (DUI) charges under Florida law range in severity, depending on the nature of the conduct. For example, a first-time DUI offense that involved a blood-alcohol level of slightly above the legal limit of 0.08 may not lead to jail time. However, even a lower level DUI offense can make a person’s life very difficult. When a DUI results in bodily injury or death to another person, the consequences are much more severe.
Under Florida Statute Section 316.193(c)(1)(3), if an individual drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes the death of another person while behind the wheel, the driver faces a second-degree felony of DUI manslaughter, even if the victim is a viable unborn fetus, also known as a “quick child.” DUI Manslaughter is a very serious crime that can turn an otherwise law-abiding citizen into a felon with a blemished criminal record.
Superior Legal Representation from St. Johns County DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys
At Musca Law, our highly skilled St. Augustine, Florida DUI manslaughter defense attorneys routinely represent clients charged with serious and potentially life-changing felonies. Because of the severe consequences of a felony conviction, especially one involving the death of another person, it is imperative to act quickly to speak with a lawyer if you are facing a DUI manslaughter charge. The St. Augustine defense lawyers of Musca Law are available 24/7 to provide you with the guidance you need during a scary and stressful time. To speak with one of our lawyers, contact Musca Law today by calling toll-free at (888) 484-5057.
Criminal Penalties of a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Florida
All felony charges in Florida carry a risk of serious jail time, but even being charged with a crime can be incredibly harmful, as there will now be a record of arrest. That record may be there even if a person facing a DUI manslaughter charge is ultimately successful in avoiding conviction. However, if a person is charged and convicted of DUI manslaughter, he or she has an uphill battle, and can expect to face the following penalties:
- Jail sentence of up to 15 years;
- A monetary fine not to exceed $10,000;
- Substance abuse counseling treatment;
- DUI programs (educational program);
- Permanent loss of one’s driver’s license;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for those who can keep their driver’s licenses on a restricted basis;
- Community service; and
- Impoundment of any vehicle involved in an alleged DUI manslaughter case.
The Non-Criminal Consequences of a DUI Manslaughter Conviction in Florida
The non-criminal consequences of a St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter conviction can be permanent and significantly alter a person’s existing life goals. Such non-criminal consequences include, among others, the following:
- A permanently scarred criminal record that shows both an arrest record and felony conviction;
- Difficulty obtaining employment that may require a background check;
- Difficulty renting a home or apartment, which may also require a background check;
- Difficulty being admitted to a college or university; and
- Difficulty making new relationships, especially after spending time in jail.
The consequences can be endless and unique, depending on a person’s situation. Given the seriousness of a DUI manslaughter conviction, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to talk to a St. Augustine DUI manslaughter defense lawyer if you are facing criminal charges.
The State Can Seek to Obtain Your Medical Records that Document Your Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC)
Under Florida law, the state of Florida can seek to obtain your medical records for any treatment you received immediately after being arrested for driving under the influence. However, you must complete a medical authorization (typically referred to as a HIPAA authorization) before your medical records are released to law enforcement officials representing the state of Florida.
The state may either informally request the medical records or may issue a subpoena for the medical records. Either way, you should discuss any request for your medical records with your St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter Defense Lawyer.
Submitting to a Blood Test After Arrest on Charges of DUI Manslaughter in St. Augustine
Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 316.1933(1)(a), a person who is suspected of driving under the influence, and whose alleged actions resulted in the serious injury or death of another person, must submit to a blood test that will measure the accused person’s blood-alcohol level (or drug levels if the incident involves the use of drugs and not alcohol).
Florida law allows law enforcement officers to pursue blood testing in the following instances:
- The accused person was in physical control of his/her vehicle at the time of the incident that resulted in arrest;
- The accused person was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident that resulted in arrest; and
- The accused person’s conduct caused bodily harm or death to another person.
Refusal to submit to blood testing carries its own consequences, however, because every situation is different, and you must provide consent before blood testing is done, it is advisable to discuss blood testing with your lawyer.
The Importance of Building a Good Defense with the Help of a St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorney
DUI manslaughter cases do not involve the element of intent. After all, most individuals convicted of DUI manslaughter certainly did not intend to harm or kill anyone. As such, the prosecution in your DUI manslaughter case only has to prove that (1) you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and (2) you operated your vehicle in a manner that resulted in the death of another individual. Simply put, the prosecution does not have to prove much to seek conviction of a St. Augustine DUI manslaughter.
The prosecution will work diligently on behalf of the state. As such, you need an attorney who will work even harder on your side. The St. Augustine DUI manslaughter defense attorneys of Musca Law have a unique plan of action for each client. Depending on the circumstances, this plan may involve the need to hire an expert witness to help support defenses to the crime of DUI manslaughter.
For example, if you are facing a DUI manslaughter charge for driving under the influence of marijuana, but you were not “high” at the time of the incident, an expert can help to establish that simply having marijuana in one’s system does not mean the person is experiencing a “high” a certain number of hours or days after using the substance. Any defense that requires scientific support will involve the use of an expert witness.
At Musca Law, we thoroughly review all available evidence provided by law enforcement to determine if there are grounds to suppress or challenge any evidence. For example, if evidence was obtained in violation of a person’s constitutional rights, that evidence may not be admissible at trial. Additionally, we seek to suppress evidence that may be prejudicial, such as evidence purporting to show that a person had an alcohol or drug problem before committing the alleged crime of DUI manslaughter.
When your constitutional rights are on the line, and you are facing the real possibility of jail time and tens of thousands of dollars in fines (not to mention the long list of additional consequences identified earlier on this page), you cannot settle for any defense lawyer. Rather, you need to work alongside an advocate who protects his/her clients' rights for a living, an advocate that knows what steps are necessary to minimize the severity of your situation.
Musca Law Will Be with You Every Step of the Way
Most people know what Miranda rights are and that any police officer violates the law by refusing to read a person his/her rights before arresting that person. The best response for any person accused of a crime is to not speak at all, or at a minimum, state that you would like to speak with your attorney. Any word you mutter after being arrested can be used against you. If you choose to work with the St. Augustine DUI defense lawyers of Musca Law, you can expect your lawyer to do the following:
- Be present during any questioning or interrogation;
- Obtain the victim’s medical records;
- Obtain all available physical evidence, whether that evidence is a t-shirt with alcohol spilled on it or a photograph of the vehicle involved in the incident;
- Obtain witness statements; and
- Survey the accident scene by taking ample photographs.
Given how quickly law enforcement officials clean up accident scenes, the sooner you can retain a St. Augustine DUI manslaughter defense attorney, the sooner your lawyer can seek to protect your rights. Many people make assumptions about DUI cases and believe most cases are clear-cut. However, there is always something that makes every case unique.
For example, if you are facing a St. Augustine DUI manslaughter charge for striking and killing a pedestrian who walked in front of your vehicle outside of a designated crosswalk or intersection, any evidence that proves the victim violated the law by walking across a street or highway without utilizing a designated crosswalk can help to build a defense against the crime. Additionally, if the victim was also under the influence when walking across the street, any evidence of this (such as toxicology or blood testing found in medical records) can be extremely important.
Permanent Revocation of Your Florida Driver’s License and the Possibility of Reinstatement
Depending on the severity of the alleged St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter charge, you could be facing a permanent revocation of your Florida driver’s license. Whether you lose your driver’s license permanently will be based on a variety of factors. Of course, the more severe the alleged crime, the greater the chances are that you will permanently lose your Florida driver’s license. If you have been convicted of DUI manslaughter but have no prior DUI conviction, you may be able to obtain a reinstatement of your Florida driver’s license after five years.
Additionally, depending on your criminal history (or lack thereof), you may be able to achieve a reinstatement of your driver’s license upon a showing of hardship, which requires that the following conditions be met:
- You have not been arrested for a drug-related crime for at least five years prior to your efforts to reinstate your license;
- There is no record of you driving your vehicle while having a suspended license for at least five years prior to your efforts to reinstate your license;
- You have had an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your vehicle for at least two years;
- You have not consumed any alcohol or drugs for at least five years prior to your efforts to reinstate your license; and
- You successfully completed DUI school/education and are currently under the supervision of the DUI program for the remainder of your period of license revocation.
If you meet the conditions for reinstatement of your Florida driver’s license based on a showing of hardship, you can immediately lose these driving privileges if you fail to continue complying with all requirements of the DUI program (such as routine check-ins, counseling, and attendance to educational courses).
Additional DUI Felonies in St. Augustine, Florida
DUI manslaughter is an incredibly serious felony, but there are additional DUI felonies that may carry the same consequences as a DUI manslaughter conviction. In most cases, DUIs that do not result in harm or death to others are considered misdemeanors, especially for a first DUI offense. However, it is essential for all Florida drivers to be aware of the following serious DUI felonies:
- DUI manslaughter;
- DUI that results in serious bodily harm;
- DUI that involves fleeing the scene of an accident involving non-serious injuries;
- Three DUI convictions within five years of any prior DUI conviction;
- A fourth DUI conviction over the course of a person’s life;
- DUI that involves leaving the scene of an incident that caused serious bodily harm; and
- DUI that involves leaving the scene of an accident that results in a fatality.
Examples of Potential Defenses to a St. Augustine, Florida DUI Manslaughter Charge
Your defense attorney may have numerous defenses to present in your case, some of which may include, among others, the following:
- Blood Testing Obtained without Consent or a Valid Warrant – If a police officer obtains your blood without your consent or does so without a valid warrant, you may have grounds to suppress the blood test results.
- Skewed Field Sobriety Test Results – If the results of a field sobriety test were skewed because of you being in shock, injured, or disabled (such as not being able to put full weight on one leg), you may have grounds to challenge the validity of the test results.
- Skewed Breathalyzer Test Results – If you undergo a breathalyzer test AFTER airbags were deployed in your vehicle, your breathalyzer test results may be higher, as the deployment of airbags tends to cause a higher BAC reading, which is something that your attorney may challenge.
- Intervening Cause of Victim’s Death – If something other than your alleged act of driving under the influence was the cause of a person’s death, such evidence could be used to defend your charge (such as in the case of a pedestrian walking across a street or highway outside of a designated crosswalk before being struck by your vehicle).
- Lack of Physical Control of Vehicle – If you were not in physical control of the vehicle at the time of the incident, presenting proof of this assertion is a strong defense to a DUI manslaughter charge.
- Weak or Absent Causation – If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your alleged conduct of driving under the influence was the cause of another person’s death, you may have grounds to achieve dismissal or acquittal. For example, if a person’s death was caused by a health event or being struck by a vehicle other than your own, such evidence can be presented at trial in your favor.
Contact Musca Law Today to Speak with a St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorney
A DUI manslaughter conviction in St. Augustine, Florida, is a life-changing event that can have negative consequences that extend after you get out of jail. One of the biggest mistakes individuals make when facing criminal charges is waiting too long to speak with an attorney. The most important step you can take after being arrested is to seek the assistance of St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys. At Musca Law, our experienced legal team has helped people just like you fight for their rights and interests. While there are many defense attorneys available, choosing a firm like Musca Law places you in the hands of true advocates that have achieved favorable results for their clients.
Musca Law employs attorneys who are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense. Additionally, Musca Law has earned 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. Our team of St. Augustine DUI Manslaughter Defense Attorneys aggressively fight for their clients’ rights to the fullest extent possible. To find out how Musca Law can help you, contact our office today to obtain a free, confidential case evaluation by calling (888) 484-5057.